LARGO -- Commissioner Pat Burke announced during Tuesday's City Commission meeting that she would not be a candidate for re-election, reversing what she said August 10.
When asked back in August whether she would be a candidate she indicated she would.
A three-term member of the commission, Burke said it was "time for someone new, fresh opinions. We need people who understand the future."
Hard on the heels of Burke's announcement, Gigi Arntzen, well known in Largo politics, announced she would seek the seat in the March election.
Arntzen, 55, has been a resident of Largo since 1973. Married, with two grown children, she retired from Pinellas County government after 30 years in 2003. She has been actively involved in Largo since 1982. She has served on six advisory boards and is currently serving as vice chairperson of the Finance Advisory Board and chairperson of the Strategic Planning Committee.
Arntzen has served as campaign manager for Burke and several other commissioners.
"As a County employee, I was not able to seek public office but participated in campaigns to help the people I felt were most qualified to serve. With my retirement, I can now move on to the next step and put my years of involvement to work for the residents," she said Tuesday night.
Burke's statement came after the commission had completed the bulk of its business, including giving approval to architectural and landscape plans for the hotel that will dominate the intersection of Missouri Avenue/Seminole Boulevard and Bay Drive.
Hampton Inn and Suites will be located on the northeast corner of the intersection, just east of a gas station. The hotel will be on the site of the old Largo High School football field and later the police station.
One thing the hotel is expected to do is give "downtown" Largo a focus. Downtown is now generally meant to mean the area from the big intersection, Central Park, West Bay up to Clearwater-Largo Road.
The five-story hotel will have 92 rooms and will be accessed from 2nd Street N.E., although the main entrance of the hotel will face East Bay Drive.
Commission members were euphoric about the project.
In other action, the commission okayed revisions to the rules and regulations for Largo city personnel.
In the language-wrecking jargon of the code, criteria is a word used to mean offense and, although the plural of criterion, it is consistently used as a singular.
Amazingly, Largo city employees can get away with some heavy duty infractions with little penalty. For example, if a Largo city employee threatens fellow employees or a member of the public he or she gets away with a three-day suspension.
An employee given to the old Humphrey Bogart ploy of instigating a fight ("Hey, that guy over there called you a sissy") also gets a three-day suspension. Engaging in an actual fight earns a five-day benching.
Similarly, an employ can suffer a mere five day suspension for punching the time card of another employee or having his or her time card punched by another employee.
This is a hoary, time encrusted way of cheating one's employer who, in this case, happens to be the taxpayers of Largo. A question raised by Commissioner Charlie Harper back in May, to wit -- can the city make a separate millage assessment for a dedicated project and have the tax assessor list it as such on the tax bill -- was answered in a memo by the assistant city attorney, Tammi Bach.
The answer is no, based on an evaluation of pertinent state statutes.
It took the highly paid city attorney's office more than four months to come up with the answer, the kind of research project second year law students can polish off in a weekend.
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